TN: New huge prison plans finalized

Monday, Jan. 11, 2010
Prison plans finalized

* 900: Existing capacity
* 1,444: Additional capacity
* 2,300: Eventual capacity
* $210 million: Estimated project cost
* 2013: Planned opening
Source: Tennessee Department of Correction

Tennessee Department of Correction officials have finalized the plans for a new prison facility in Bledsoe County.
Chattanooga Times Free Press
January 11, 2010

The facility will raise the inmate count from 900 at the present Southeastern Tennessee State Regional Correctional Facility to more than 2,300 and add about 250 corrections jobs, officials said.

“This expansion is starting to draw a lot of attention,” facility warden Jim Morrow said.

Would-be contractors also have been doing soil testing at the new prison site for the planned geothermal heating system, Mr. Morrow said.

Over recent months, facility plans have been tweaked, turning the design to accommodate wetlands on the prison’s 2,200-acre property, according to Department of Correction spokeswoman Dorinda Carter.

Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation spokeswoman Meg Lockhart said water regulators expect to issue soon a wetlands alteration permit allowing construction work to begin.

Additionally, just getting an adequate water supply to the massive prison — which will be Bledsoe County’s largest employer with an estimated 540 workers — will require a new water line to be extended from Spring City.

Ms. Carter said the estimated cost of the facility is $150 million, and the total cost of the expansion project, including the new water line and other infrastructure, will be about $210 million.

Bids for the infrastructure and site work are coming in under estimates, she said, but no bids have been let yet on the prison itself.

Corrections officials have said other delays could crop up, but the state hopes to let bids in the 2011-12 budget year and open the prison in 2013.

The expansion was planned to begin in 2005 until cost overruns on a Morgan County prison expansion prompted a review and a $12 million cost savings. Planners then reviewed the Bledsoe project and decided to build a stand-alone prison rather than expand the existing one.